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High Court judge finds alleged shooter not guilty of murder but convicted his co-accused of murder

Posted: Friday, July 14, 2023. 6:44 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Five years ago Sunday, businessman Jose Hilario Diaz was shot in the face and died at his business at the corner of Euphrates Avenue and Cemetery Road, Belize City.

The Crown jointly accused two men, Emmerson Garnett, 32, and Leroy Haulze, 28, of carrying out the murder, the first as the shooter and the second as the look-out man. They tried to show the men acted together in what is known in law as “joint enterprise.”

But alleged discrepancies in identification and police testimony caused presiding Justice Nigel Pilgrim to, unusually, declare Garnett not guilty, but Haulze guilty after issuing his judgment today.

The incident was captured on surveillance camera and witnessed in person by several police officers who identified the man in the red shirt as Garnett and the other in the gray shirt across the street as Haulze, but beyond that, things got murky. The men were seen leaving together after a shot was heard as the second had apparently waited for the first across the street.

Haulze was clearly identified in the video and by the police witnesses and his guilt was established by the court, but Justice Pilgrim ruled he could not safely rely on key pieces of evidence and testimony against Garnett because of circumstances.

A female police officer witnessed the incident and claimed to know Garnett for an extended period, but she failed to report what she had seen immediately and instead went home and only gave a statement days later, claiming that she was on holiday. A second senior police officer said he could not be sure if the man in the red shirt on the video resembled Garnett, and despite claiming to know him well, neither officer was able to tell if he had a scar on his neck or not.

Their testimony was altogether unhelpful, unreliable and in some parts dishonest, the judge concluded, and not enough in his view to convict Garnett beyond a reasonable doubt.

Both men were defended by Leeroy Banner and Senior Crown Counsel Sheiniza Smith prosecuted. Sentencing for Haulze has been set for September 25.


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